Superman was adopted. So were Batman, Spiderman, and Kenneth and Miles Spann.
You probably haven’t heard of Kenneth, 8, and Miles, 7, yet. But someday you might. They might seem like the ordinary children of Little Rock parents Jeremy and Elizabeth Spann, but they’re already developing their superpowers.
“We’ve had a lot of first birthday parties, first bike riding, first vacations, just seeing them grow into individual people, and they’re just amazing,” Elizabeth Spann said. “They’re the most resilient kids ever. They’re so bright, so funny.”
Spann made those comments on the football field at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock May 6 shortly before the family participated in the Walk for the Waiting.
That’s the annual event that raises funding for three faith-based organizations that serve children in the foster care system: The CALL in Arkansas (http://thecallinarkansas.org), which recruits and trains foster and adoptive parents; Project Zero (http://theprojectzero.org), which links prospective adoptive parents and children; and Immerse Arkansas (http://www.immersearkansas.org), which serves young people who are aging out of the system without finding a permanent home.
This year’s Walk for the Waiting drew a couple of thousand participants and so far has raised most of its $300,000 goal. Its other purpose was to raise awareness and recruit people to serve the state’s foster care population, which ballooned from 3,806 in 2015 to 5,209 by last September but has leveled off and stood at 5,155 as of May 5.
Foster children are those whom the state’s Division of Children and Family Services (http://www.fosterarkansas.org) temporarily has removed from their biological families because of abuse, drug abuse and other issues. The goal is to return the children home as soon as their parents are ready to take care of them. When the courts determine they cannot be returned, parental rights are terminated and the children become eligible for adoption. About 500 foster children are eligible, 200 of whom are already in pre-adoptive homes.
Superman’s human dad, Jonathan Kent, brought him home after he discovered the spacecraft that had carried the young boy from the planet Krypton.
Kenneth and Miles were discovered a little less dramatically. The Spanns, unsuccessful at having children even after infertility treatments, had decided to adopt and were looking through photos on Project Zero’s online “Heart Gallery” when they found their two future sons, whom they adopted at ages 5 and 4.
What drew them to those two?
“They have the prettiest smiles, and they look so happy, and their eyes, their eyes sparkle,” Elizabeth Spann said. “Still do.”
The parents have their own secret identities: Jeremy is a science teacher, while Elizabeth is a school psychologist. Creating a new family can tax the powers of any such mortal man or woman, but it hasn’t been too difficult for the Spanns. Among the challenges: They are white, and Kenneth and Miles are African-American. A few people stare at them in stores, but most are very supportive, and African-American friends have taught Elizabeth about hair and skin care. Meanwhile, the sons are not troubled by the cosmetic differences.
“It’s surprisingly not as big a challenge as we expected it to be,” she said. “They’re super understanding. They notice right away that they’re brown and we’re not. They’re super fascinated by it, especially like in the summer when they notice that I get browner. They love that. They’re like, ‘You’re almost as brown as we are now!’”
Unlike Superman, the sons know from the beginning who they are, where they come from, and what makes them special. Still, part of their parents’ job will be helping them make sense of it all. They’ve decorated their sons’ room with superhero references, including signs with messages such as “Superman was adopted.” Every member of the family wore a cape or another superhero-related article of clothing at the Walk for the Waiting.
“We do a lot of things with superheroes,” she said. “We always tell them, you know, Batman was adopted, Superman was adopted, Spiderman was adopted, so we always kind of talk about that. So talking to them about their origin story as a superhero is important. And they’re little, so we try to figure out how much to tell them at a time.”
Sounds like there are four heroes in that home.
Steve Brawner is an independent journalist in Arkansas. Email him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @stevebrawner.